In January, Provost Beth Barnett announced the retirement of Lewis M. Chakrin, dean of the Anisfield School of Business. Chakrin, who has been at Ramapo for 10 years and initiated several major projects for the school, will officially retire on June 30 of this year.
Chakrin joined Ramapo in 2006, with a Ph.D. in finance from New York University. He worked for several major corporations, such as AT&T Wireless and Lucent Technologies before deciding to look for work in education.
“Before Ramapo I spent 36 years in the corporate world — AT&T, AT&T Wireless, Lucent Technologies — my last job was as executive vice president of corporate strategy and business development for AT&T Wireless … and we sold the company to Cingular. It was very exciting … and then we all — the senior team — retired. So I retired for a year and within six months I was going crazy. Failed miserably at retirement, but I have a Ph.D. in finance so in my early years I worked for AT&T Bell Labs, which was the research and development arm of the Bell System, when there was one big bell system, and so it was very much like a university atmosphere. It was during that time that I got my Ph.D. and I said to myself, when I was getting my Ph.D., someday I may want to go to a university or college, and it’s great when a plan comes together — so here I am,” Chakrin said.
During his time at Ramapo, Chakrin accomplished several milestones, notably national accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools in Business, or AACSB.
“I think we’ve really changed the face of this program for the better — grown it in many ways, and when I came the business school had only started thinking about becoming accredited by what we call the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools in Business, AACSB, and that is the premiere accreditation agency — international accreditation agency — for business schools around the world … and it’s a very long process to become accredited. It typically takes seven years to do it. We actually did it in five, five and a half years,” Chakrin said.
According to Chakrin, this accreditation meant putting Ramapo on the map in the business world.
“In 2010 we were accredited for the first time — very happy about that. You know, Ramapo College is, even though we know it’s a wonderful place, the name is still not out there certainly in a national level — on a global level. When our students prepare their resumes, we always make them say ‘the Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College AACSB accredited,’ and the business world knows what that means so it kind of puts us on a different scale.”
This accreditation is a continuous process, with the College just recently being reaccredited for an additional five and a half years. This means the College will be accredited until 2020, a factor Chakrin took into consideration when deciding when to retire.
“We couldn’t have become accredited or gotten reaccredited without one of the principles of ASB: continuous improvement. You can’t stand still. If you stand still you’re not going to get reaccredited — you must always be improving on behalf of the students, the quality of the program,” Chakrin said.
Another notable program added to the business school under Chakrin’s leadership includes an MBA program for working professionals.
“The program includes a trip to China, it includes consulting assignments [such as Nickelodeon, Valley Health Systems, BMW, Striker, Home Depot] … and they do real consulting projects because they’re just about to graduate. We give the client a team of MBA students who can really help them, and we’ve had some great success with that,” Chakrin said.
Chakrin also spoke of the importance of a new career center — a satellite of the Cahill Center — to serve the business students in particular. One aspect of this career-building movement included the Career Pathways Program, which has also been introduced to other schools at Ramapo.
“For us, it was about really preparing our students for those jobs that they studied for so long,” Chakrin said.
Giving an example of the type of services this program includes, Chakrin made note of the interview preparation provided.
“We practice interviewing with students. So they have to go through this whole module where they interview, and they see a video of themselves interviewing, but it’s so important. You study for four years, you want to get that job, you finally get your foot in the door for a professional interview, and you’ve never practiced it before,” Chakrin said.
This sort of preparation, according to Chakrin, has been proven to help students. He noted that 62 percent of graduating business students had at least one internship before they graduated.
“Career Pathways is consistent with our mission, which is not just to teach our students, but to really prepare them to be successful in their careers,” Chakrin said.
Other notable achievements included the Project Management Certificate Program, which, according to Chakrin, trained over 300 outside students to be project managers, half of which were funded by the state because they were out of work, as well as the Business Essentials Certificate Program, which appeals to non-business majors at the College.
“We try to provide a service to the broader community — not just the business school students, but the rest of Ramapo College students and the outside community," Chakrin explained.
Chakrin was also proud of the accomplishments achieved in tandem with the Dean’s Advisory Council, which he started years ago.
“I have about 25 to 30 students every year who I meet with monthly and I think that has worked out so beautifully. The students advise me if there are any issues or problems or things they’d like to see in the school, and I use them as a kind of test bed. Many good things have come from that. For example, it was the Dean’s Student Advisory Board that said, you know what we really need, would be a course on advanced Excel so that we could take the Microsoft Excel certification test and then put that on our resume … and we now have a two credit course,” Chakrin said.
Although he will be leaving the program in June, Chakrin hopes for the school “to maintain what we have built together,” as well as work to be continuously improving. However, he might still stay involved with Ramapo.
“I do have a faculty appointment — I might come back and teach, but for the first year," Chakrin said with a smile.
Spending 10 years working with the College, it’s clear that Ramapo holds a place in his heart.
“Ramapo College in general, and the business school, is a very special place … I always went to very large universities — NYU, Columbia — great reputations, great schools, but not the same kind of education you get here, the kind of close relationships with faculty. The atmosphere here is very welcoming.”